By Barb Arland-Fye
A diocesan prayer service to honor the apostle St. Paul is bringing together two Davenport churches – one Catholic and one Lutheran — named for the tireless evangelist.
The prayer service, also called vespers, will begin at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Davenport. That date marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Rev. Peter Marty, senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, will preach at the service along with Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport, who will preside.
“In honor of St. Paul’s work as a tentmaker, and remembering how he cared for the poor in Jerusalem, we will also be receiving a collection to assist the Humility of Mary Shelter in providing housing for the homeless,” said Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy for the Davenport Diocese.
He broached the idea of inviting St. Paul Lutheran to the diocesan prayer service during a meeting last year with the diocesan Liturgical Commission.
“They thought it was a great idea and the bishop thought it was a great idea and so I called Pastor Marty. He was very receptive,” Deacon Agnoli said.
Ann Rosendale, a pastoral intern at St. Paul Lutheran, has been working closely with Deacon Agnoli and other representatives of both congregations to create a meaningful service.
Holden Evening Prayer — a musical setting for evening prayer composed by Marty Haugen — serves as the framework for the Jan. 25 prayer service at St. Paul the Apostle.
Haugen has composed hundreds of contemporary hymns that Catholic and Protestant congregations sing.
Deacon Agnoli said efforts were made to incorporate traditions from each congregation into the service, which means some aspects of the service may be unfamiliar to each. One example would be the version of the Lord’s Prayer. The contemporary words to be recited in the Evening Prayer are different than Catholics are accustomed to. The use of incense also occurs at different times in a Lutheran prayer service than a Catholic one.
“A little discomfort is all right; it reminds us that the body of Christ is fractured and that should make us uncomfortable and work toward deepening the bonds of unity,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity for both congregations to stretch,” Rosendale said. “I think God calls us to stretch and to go outside our comfort zone and to grow deeper in our faith.”
The biggest challenge in organizing the prayer service has been “fitting all the pieces together so it would be cohesive, so it would flow well and retain the spirit of the evening and the spirit of conversion,” she said.
The choirs of each congregation will participate in the service and their choir directors have been actively involved in the planning process. A member from each congregation will attend the other’s church service one weekend ahead to invite worshippers to the Jan. 25 prayer service.
And to help foster a relationship between the two church communities, the confirmation classes of each are writing letters to one another in the spirit of the prolific St. Paul. Rosendale came up with the idea for the letter-writing exchange because of her interest in youth ministry and desire to get teenagers involved. The pen pals will have an opportunity to meet one another during a reception following the service.
“I hope more people experience God in a new way,” Rosendale says of her desire for the ecumenical prayer service. “I hope that people will learn something about one another’s traditions and grow in their respect for Paul the apostle and grow in love for each other and God.”